Roland MICRO CUBE Guitar Combo Amplifier
I knew nothing about amps prior to this purchase, but I spent literally days reading all I could find. While I viewed dozens of sites overall, take a look at the buying guide at sweetwater if you too are a newbie and want a good, but succinct, overview of the basics. After I understood the various options I read hundreds of reviews (I am a just a little bit on the obsessive, compulsive side if you haven't gathered that yet). The amp was a Christmas present for my son who also received a MIM Strat (that was a month-long research effort!). And yes, he is an extremely spoiled (but deserving) kid. But I didn't want to spend too much as he is a beginner, and I wasn't 100% certain he would stick with his playing. And as he goes away to college next year, portability was a definite factor. Based on all that and the great reviews I read, I decided to go with this model.
After more than two months my son is still extremely happy with it. It sounds great, has just enough good effects to mess around with, it can go PLENTY loud, and the ability to carry it up and down the stairs, to his lessons, etc is great. The batteries seemingly last forever and for a pretty small outlay, I think it possible that he doesn't buy another amp for many years.